Animals straying from commonage and causing accidents ‘not a matter’ for Louth County Council

Sheep on a road.

Margaret RoddyThe Argus

“It’s like having a dog and doing your own barking,” Cllr John Reilly said at the monthly meeting of the Dundalk Municipal District as he complained about the lack of information regarding who is responsible if an animal straying from commonage onto a public road causes an accident.

He said he had asked the Council to get a legal opinion in relation to that but was “absolutely ignored”.

It was his understanding that going from the legal definition of commonage, Louth County Council has a responsibility and he felt that the local authority and farmers should sit down and discuss the issue.

"If an animal strays off the mountain, the person who put them there is not liable for damage,” he said.

He said that there was only one area of commonage in County Louth and that was in north Louth but there were no signs to indicate that.

He said that he had seen gates on either end of roads passing through commons in Wales and while he didn’t agree with gates, he felt grids might be an option, although he knew the Director of Service Catherine Duff felt they might be associated dangers.

He felt clarity was needed if for example a sheep wanders from a field into the forest and onto a road. He was aware of one such accident where a car had been written off.

Director of Service Thomas McEvoy said the issue had been raised at both Louth County Council and the Corporate Policy Group.

He had a copy of a letter from the Department of Agriculture which more or less supports their view that Louth County Council doesn’t have a role regarding commonage.

It would be a matter of litigation for whoever owns the animal and those on the road if there was an accident.

"We are not in a position to provide legal advice, it’s not a matter for the local authority.”

Cllr Reilly asked that the council write to the local authorities in Kildare and Donegal where there are also areas of commonage to get advice regarding the issue.